I’ve observed parallels between discrimination based on race and discrimination based on being transgender. Examples abound as to the negative side of racism, and I don’t need to mention any of them. But, racism can have peculiar positive effects too. I recall being in a business networking group when a gentleman from India wanted to join, and he was enthusiastically voted in either by an overwhelming majority. He was –is — a really nice guy, but he wasn’t personally a great fit for the group’s dynamic, and that was apparent to some folks even from the get-go. Eventually, the mismatch became so clear that everyone, himself included, thought it might be better off if he left the group. Later, I asked one of the folks in the group why he’d voted for the gentlemen, and he explained that it was purely a race-based decision, and there was no way he was going to stand in the way of a person of color joining this otherwise all-white group. So, yes, there was racial discrimination in the decision but it was intentionally aimed to be in the gentleman’s favor. Ironically, this only helped short-term, and in the long run, objectivity might have been better.
I recall a debate among a group of Democratic Party presidential candidates, one of whom was Jesse Jackson, who is black and whom I don’t like very much — not because he’s black but because of his principles. As it happens, his principles make him a good fit for the Democratic Party (and by now you’ve probably guessed that I don’t like that party’s principles, either).
Whether I like him or not, I have to concede that he’s a smart guy with a lot of interesting things to say. The other half-dozen or so Democratic Party presidential candidate in the debate were all white. I’m not sure it really should be called a debate. It was more of a verbal brawl, and the white candidates were brutally candid and sometimes downright negative with each other. When a white candidate said something, there was a good chance the others would pounce on it and shred it. Yet, when Jesse Jackson said something, it was treated respectfully (on the surface) and not attacked. It was almost as if the retarded child at a family dinner says something, and everyone present treats it with a “that’s nice, dear” sort of premise as opposed to critically evaluating it. So, short-term, it was helpful to Jesse Jackson, in that he wasn’t subjected to the same verbal attacks, but long-term it was counterproductive because it’s hard to conclude he was taken seriously, and that’s really more condescending than nice. I have no doubt that Jesse Jackson was being given special treatment due to him being black.
I’m writing this post in an era where Obama is President and more and more Democrats are becoming aghast at the actions of the candidate they voted for. Yet, Obama’s agenda was no intentionally-hidden mystery. He’s written a book in which he details his principles clearly, and even if one hadn’t read the book, his choice of adult friendships certainly make it no surprise that he’d do what he did, once in power. Close to 66 million people voted for Obama, but it’s safe to say that only a tiny fraction of these folks read his book and thus understood his motives — motives that he has translated into action with generally unpopular results. Naive folks ascribe this to incompetence whereas it’s what I observe is actually a very successful implementation of Obama’s ideas. The nature of these ideas are the problem.
Regardless of one’s party affiliation, there’s typically some remnant of pro-Americanism in most Americans’ values. By average Republican standards, Obama’s ideas and actions are so anti-American as to have merited impeachment long ago. Yet, Obama’s ideas are anti-American even by the standards of the average liberal. That makes me wonder how, in a culture where information is abundantly available on so many subjects, so many \Americans ended up voting into power a candidate whose idea set they truly didn’t know. It’s almost as if these voters were on autopilot. Some candid folks have made observations that make me conclude that the same thought process that made the Indian gentleman so welcome in the business networking group, regardless of merit, are what made Obama so welcome to become the new resident of the White House.
I think MLK had it right the first time. I’d much rather we all be color-blind as to skin color and that we evaluate individuals by the content of their character. A positive decision based on racism is nicer than a negative one, but it’s still not basically fair.
Some folks have argued for a “yes, but” clause and it goes something like this: Imagine you see a black person trying to make headway in a culture dominated by other races and in which he’s got an artificially difficult struggle due to racism being aimed against him. In such situations, it might be an act of fairness to try to counteract the racist forces by being extra nice and supportive to that particular individual.
I can see some limited merit to that thought process, but it is based on a set of assumptions that might soon cease to be valid and then this recipe fosters injustice as opposed to injustice.
All of this brings me to a phenomenon that helps me understand how transgender girls are being treated in popular culture today. A popular TV series is titled “Orange is the new Black.” I adapt the premise to “Transgender is the new Black.” Many of the black-discrimination problems, pro and con, map to transgender-discrimination problems.
As for the negative aspects of transgender discrimination, examples abound and I don’t need to mention any of them. This story, ultimately, is about a positive example that happened to me, and it didn’t adversely impact anyone else in any material way, so I like it.
This week, I was staying at a Hampton Inn hotel in Las Vegas, and my schedule had been crazy. I’d driven 400 miles to Las Vegas that previous evening, then I had only a couple of hours’ sleep, and then I left the hotel at 3:30 a.m. or so to go drop off my romantic partner at the airport. On the way back, I drove down Las Vegas Boulevard and delighted in how pretty the place looks just as the sky was lightening in the East. I drove to the top of the Treasure Island parking garage and enjoyed the 360 degree view of the sky and the buildings of my favorite city. I walked through Treasure Island, stopping by their convenience store (which was open at 5 a.m., no problem) and then to Walgreens across the street, and finally to the Venetian for a cup of coffee.
By the time I got back to the Hampton Inn, it was time for their breakfast, and I enjoyed that too. After that, I was seriously sleep-deprived. The normal check-out time was 11 a.m. This meant that, at most, I had maybe three hours of sleep ahead of me. A delayed checkout would be really nice. Sometimes, a Hampton Inn would extend the check-out time to 11:30 or even noon, and in extreme cases even 12:30. A time of 1 p.m. is almost unheard of, but … how wonderful that would be!! Those two extra hours of sleep would mean a lot.
I approached the gentleman at the front desk, and he beamed at me. By now it’s pretty apparent to me that almost everyone who sees me knows immediately that I’m a transgender girl. Only a very few people are so cerebral that they go by the mental model and cultural cues to where they focus on me being, fundamentally, a girl so well that my strong jawline doesn’t even register.
For the most part, I just proceed on the premise that folks know I’m a transgender girl (or in the case of less-advanced thought processes, at least something along those lines, e.g., a very-feminine-looking guy in a dress).
I asked for a late checkout and got the nicest smile, and an enthusiastic “yes” and an offer of 2 p.m. Wow!!! I thanked the gentleman profusely and went to my room to catch up on some much-needed sleep.
At 2 p.m., when I called the front desk to check out, the same gentleman answered the phone, and he proceeded to comment enthusiastically about my journey as a transgender girl, and how supportive he is of me being true to myself in a situation with so many challenges and obstacles. That’s not exactly what he said, but that’s the gist of it as I understood it. It was a warm and wonderful conversation.
Obviously, I was being treated differently due to being a transgender girl, but I was being treated extra nicely. And, I did enjoy that, very much.
After checking out, I went to a nearby store and bought some flowers and went back to the hotel to give them to the gentleman, to say: “thank you for being so nice to me.”
It was a most positive experience for me.